Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the applicants, Harlan Inc. and Matthew Pierce. Mr. Douglas Armstrong represented the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, which was in opposition to the transfer.
Mr. Matthew Pierce testified that he had been an assistant manager for two years at nearby bar WC Harlan. The bar has not had a violation since it opened and has received accolades and awards, including Best of Baltimore, awards from the City Paper and mentions in New York Magazine and Baltimore Magazine. To Mr. Pierce’s knowledge, there have been no noise issues or neighborhood complaints about WC Harlan. Pierce testified that he had reached out to the two community groups in the area, Remington Neighborhood Alliance and the Greater Remington Improvement Association. They also went door to door on 23rd Street, gathering signatures on a petition in favor of the new establishment. There are several letters of support in the file. They are applying for outdoor table service as part of the application. The building is currently located in an “M-2-2″ district, which permits outdoor tables as a matter of right. Pierce testified that the area is mostly industrial where they hope to open their new restaurant.
Mr. Brian Weeks, a resident of Remington, who lives a half mile from the proposed new establishment, vouched for Mr. Pierce as a friend. Weeks said that Pierce and his wife, Lane Harlan, have a great attention to detail and have put their heart and soul into their bar. He said that the same attention to detail extends to their relationship with the community. They have become very active in coming to GRIA meetings and presenting their plans. Ms. Jenna Hattenburg agreed with Mr. Weeks. She lives above WC Harlan, and she testified that the bar is very quiet and she supports the transfer. Commissioner Moore asked whether Harlan and Pierce are Hattenburg’s landlords; she replied that they are. Moore asked her whether she was promised anything in return for her testimony, and Ms. Hattenburg responded that she was not; she came in voluntarily. Mr. Woody Ranere, who lives seven blocks away, testified, with a baby in his arms, that he also supports the transfer. Mr. Ryan Flanigan, Vice President of GRIA, also testified in enthusiastic support of the project. He said that the owners had been thoroughly vetted by GRIA’s board and membership.
Commissioner Moore asked whether this block would be impacted by redevelopment in the area. The applicants responded that the particular block is cut off from the redevelopment that is going on in Remington. There are not many residences in the area, and the community members don’t foresee residences being added in the near future. Commissioner Moore asked whether the license that is being transferred is valid and in use. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, Executive Secretary of the Board, told the Commissioners that the license to be transferred is valid and has been in existence since 1934.
Mr. Pierce testified that RNA never responded to their emails to discuss the project; he testified that he reached out three or four times, through his wife. Each time, RNA either requested more information or did not respond. Ms. Brittany Lane Harlan, Pierce’s wife and the licensee at WC Harlan, testified that she had reached out to RNA in November 2014. They never requested that she attend one of their meetings.
Mr. Douglas Armstrong, Vice President of RNA, told the Board that he was before them in lieu of his wife, Joan Floyd, President of RNA. He pointed out two problems with the application. The first problem is that there is no evidence in the file that Mr. Matthew Pierce is a registered voter and Baltimore City taxpayer. Second, RNA had a problem with the ownership of the business. Mr. Pierce said that he was the full owner, but it was generally understood in the neighborhood that Ms. Harlan would be significantly involved in the new restaurant. Armstrong pointed out that Mr. Pierce never contacted RNA; only Ms. Harlan did. Mr. Armstrong said that RNA did not have any objections to Mr. Pierce’s character or fitness, but RNA is just asking that the rules of the Liquor Board be met in order to have a legal transfer. Armstrong added, “this is not a plebescite.”
Mr. Hurdle, in response to RNA’s objections, pointed out that there is a letter from Deputy Executive Secretary Thomas Akras to Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth saying that renters qualify as taxpayers because their rent goes to paying the taxes on their rented building. Armstrong said that this is a conflicting position from the one held by the former Deputy Executive Secretary, Ms. Jane Schroeder. Mr. Hurdle also pointed out that Harlan and Pierce are legally married. Armstrong noted that one married partner does nto necessarily have the responsibility to perform the duties of the other spouse. Mr. Hurdle noted, in conclusion, that Ms. Harlan is not listed anywhere in the Articles of Incorporation of Harlan, Inc. and Mr. Pierce does not own stock in WC Harlan’s corporate entity. Pierce told the Board that he is a registered voter, but he did not have his voter registration card with him.
Commissioner Moore asked Armstrong whether he had any objection to Pierce’s concept for his restaurant. Armstrong replied that he has no knowledge of Pierce’s concept. His main concern is whether Pierce meets the requirements of the law.